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Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Condi Difference

USA Today explained the distortion of Condeleeza Rice's eyes as the standard application of sharpening filters to her face by one of their editors:
Editor's note: The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY's editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice's face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.
If that is the case then a comparison between the values of individual pixels in both photos should show an area of difference across the area the editor selected.

(A) and (B) below are the images used for the comparison, together with their respective colour histograms calculated by Photoshop.


(C) shows the Photoshop blending filter "Difference" applied to both photos. This filter essentially subtracts the color values between individual pixels and should show areas of difference.

One important note: It appears the latest photo used by USA Today was cropped slightly differently to the "bright eyes" photo, resulting in the photos being slightly offset from each other when overlaid. I've tried to correct for this manually. Any errors caused by this problem will likely result in slight differences being detected along the edges of major object boundaries, ie between Condi's hair and whatever is behind her. Also the alternating bright and dark fine pattern and jewelry (?) she is wearing caused problems in the lower central area of the difference image.

As you can see the only area feature showing consistent difference between the two photos is the white areas over Condi's eyes. USA Today said a "portion" of Condi's face was selected for sharpening. That portion was clearly limited to Condi's eyes. Why did they just not say that?

But did they actually use a sharpening filter? That will require a little more experimentation to establish scientifically. My initial impression is they did not, as sharpening filters are designed to accentuate the difference between neighbouring blocks of colour rather than brighten areas of one colour. It's more likely someone selected Condi's eyes using one of Photoshop's many selection tools and manually altered the colour levels.

Condi's eyes were specifically selected for a brightening effect, while minimal colour manipulation was performed on the rest of the photo.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 10/27/2005 12:16:00 PM


Blogger Kimble said...

What cannot be explained away is that any fool looking at the picture they ended up using would instantly notice the problem with the eyes. The person who changed the picture and the person who put it on the website MUST have known how it looked. There is no escaping that.

10/27/2005 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger Adolf Fiinkensein said...

I thought their excuse was just plain bloody Condisending!

10/27/2005 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger Lucyna said...

I'm amazed they didn't colour them red and be done with it. They forgot the horns, too. If they started with small horns, then readers would slowly get used to them and hardly notice.

Kind of matches with that Hell's Pizza ad of Bush, doesn't it?

10/27/2005 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I didn't know the Hell's ad with Bush is altered in any way.

10/28/2005 02:45:00 PM  

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